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The people who think 9/11 may have been an ‘inside job’

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The Tribute in Lights illuminates the Manhattan skyline a decade after the 9/11 attacks

On 11 September 2001, four passenger planes were hijacked by radical Islamist terrorists – almost 3,000 people were killed as the aircraft were flown into the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. Just hours after the collapse of New York’s Twin Towers, a conspiracy theory surfaced online which persists more than 16 years later.

“Is it just me?” an internet user named David Rostcheck wrote, “or did anyone else recognise that it wasn’t the airplane impacts that blew up the World Trade Centre?

“I hope other people are actually catching this, but I haven’t seen anyone say it yet, so I guess I will. There’s no doubt that the planes hit the building and did a lot of damage. But look at the footage – those buildings were demolished,” he continued. “To demolish a building, you don’t need all that much explosive but it needs to be placed in the correct places… Someone had to have a lot of access to all of both towers and a lot of time to do this. This is pretty grim. The really dire part is – what were the planes for?”

Subsequent investigations made it clear that the tower structures were weakened by the inferno from the planes and felled by the weight of collapsing floors. However even now some people refuse to believe this version of events.

Matt Campbell (centre) with brothers Rob and Geoff (right)

‘Something’s happened in New York’

On the day of the attacks, Matt Campbell was on holiday in Lanzarote with his wife and two young daughters. He followed the news on television in a state of shock. His brother Geoff, it transpired over the next few agonising hours, was in the World Trade Centre.

“My mother had just flown out the day before to join us for a week,” he remembers.

“I recall being on the beach and I think my wife had gone up to one of the restaurants to get some food. She came down saying ‘I think something’s happened in New York.’

“A few calls here and there and we managed to establish that Geoff was in the North Tower. No-one had heard from him.”

Geoff had moved to Manhattan a couple of years earlier. He’d recently got engaged and worked for the Reuters news agency in Midtown. He was on the 106th floor of the North Tower for a conference.

“We immediately thought the worst,” says Matt.

“Over the next few days we tried to keep our hopes up. We were stranded – no flights were leaving. All we had was a kind of hazy picture on the hotel’s cable TV. The news clips were being repeated showing the plane going into tower two.”

More on online conspiracy theories

The family got a flight back to the UK after a couple of days and then got onto a flight to New York.

“We went there still clinging to hope that perhaps he had been injured and was unconscious. But we called round a few hospitals and it became clear that there were very few people who were actually injured,” Matt says.

Geoff was dead. He was 31. An inquest into his death would not conclude until 2013, though fragments of his shoulder blade were identified among rubble from the World Trade Centre in 2002.

By that point, Matt was beginning to question the official account of what happened. He doesn’t subscribe to any one particular conspiracy theory – and online, there are many to choose from – but he’s convinced that there is a cover-up which is preventing him from getting answers about his brother’s death.

“It probably started at the end of October in 2001,” he says. “The more I started to look at stuff over the years, the more things didn’t add up.”

Matt says he has submitted freedom of information requests to the FBI and other bodies which investigated 9/11.

“It’s frustrating. Sometimes they say they’re protected from disclosure because they could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.

“We are 16 years on now. I can’t even get basic evidence from the authorities.”

‘Perfectly natural’

He wasn’t alone in asking questions. A 2016 study from Chapman University in California, found more than half of Americans believe the government is concealing information about the 9/11 attacks. Sections of the official US government report were redacted for years – and some information is still missing.

However that doesn’t mean there’s any evidence for the more outlandish online conspiracy theories about the attacks. Some claim the US government was complicit – that officials deliberately let the attacks happen or were even involved in the planning. Experts say part of the reason for the persistence of such conspiracy theories is the dissonance that results when people hear that a relatively small group of men using low-tech weapons caused such cataclysmic carnage.

“It’s perfectly natural when something important happens people want to have an explanation,” says Professor Karen Douglas, a social psychologist at the University of Kent.

“Often, the official explanation appears quite mundane to people and not particularly satisfying.

“Conspiracy theories often emerge as a result of this need for an explanation that’s proportional to the event itself.”

And the reinforcing nature of the online world means that the theories have hung around for a decade and a half.

“Information doesn’t necessarily spread indiscriminately the way people think it does on the internet and social media. People tend to share it with people who kind of think the same way as they do about these issues in the first place,” she says.

The theories have been propelled by several books and films. David Ray Griffin, a professor of religious philosophy and theology, accused the US government of complicity in the attack in his 2004 book The New Pearl Harbour.

The first instalment in filmmaker Dylan Avery’s Loose Change series was released in 2005. Vanity Fair suggested the films, which presented many of the most popular 9/11 conspiracy theories, “might be the first internet blockbuster”. Millions watched them, sharing the footage on bootleg DVDs, Google Video and internet forums. It was so widely available, a digital copy was even later found in Osama Bin Laden’s compound.

In 2006, a California architect called Richard Gage founded Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911 Truth) – a group of engineering and architecture professionals who questioned the official version of events.

BBC report

The confusion and chaos of 11 September 2001 has also helped the conspiracies find an audience. To take one notable example, a third tower collapsed in Manhattan on 9/11 – WTC7.

This tower has become a key focus for people who question the official account of what happened. A 47-storey building about 100 metres from the twin towers, WTC7 was never struck by an airplane. Two planes plus three towers has equalled plenty of questions – questions compounded by the BBC’s own reporting of the collapse of WTC7. In the frenetic, confusing aftermath of the terror attacks, the BBC reported that WTC7 had collapsed twenty minutes before the building actually came down.

In 2007, the BBC’s The Editors blog addressed the reports and traced how an on-air comment about an imminent collapse turned into reporting about the building actually falling – shortly before WTC7 did indeed fall.

Any apparent discrepancy was cleared up by a 2008 report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) which found that WTC7 collapsed after fires on multiple floors “caused a critical support column to fail, initiating a fire-induced progressive collapse that brought the building down”.

But that did not change the minds of the conspiracy theorists.

AE911 Truth board member Roland Angle alleges there are significant errors in the NIST report. His organisation has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund additional research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The conclusions of that study will be published in 2018.

“We’re trying to clear up the reputation of our own profession,” Roland tells me. “We can say what didn’t happen that day, no matter what the government report says.

“We think there’s a serious issue here.”

Alleged 9/11 conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed sketched in a pre-trial hearing at Guantanamo

Matt Campbell’s also still looking for answers. In 2016, he flew to Guantanamo to attend a pre-trial hearing of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man described by the 9/11 Commission Report as the “principal architect of the 9/11 terror attacks”.

He called the trial “a bit of a farce” but said: “It’s the closest I’m ever going to get to a trial into the murder of my brother.

“There were four other families there. I know one of the ladies there had signed a reinvestigate 9/11 petition back in 2003 or 2004. The other family members, from what I could gather, were pretty much in line with the official narrative.

“But I already expect this. My own experience in England, with family members, is that some people have got past wanting to know what happened. They’re still dealing with the never-ending effects of losing a loved-one.”

Blog by Chris Bell

Those white lines in the sky trailing behind jet planes are puffy plumes of water vapour. But online, some have twisted them into evidence of a secret plot to control weather or poison the environment. Why are wild theories about contrails and other phenomena so persistent on social media?

Suzanne Maher doesn’t like the term “conspiracy theory”.

When I use it – on a phone call to arrange an interview – she tells me that it was invented by the CIA to discredit those who question the government.

But as the founder of Bye Bye Blue Sky – a group established to raise awareness of so-called “chemtrails” and what she claims is a massive, secret government conspiracy to control the weather – it’s one the Canadian is used to hearing.

“I ask that we move beyond the notion that this is a conspiracy theory,” she says. “Twenty to thirty years ago we never saw these trails. We had a beautiful blue sky.”

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Suzanne is among a significant number of people using social media to spread this message.

“Chemtrail” conspiracy theorists vary in their claims. But some of the most popular include the belief that governments control the weather on a massive scale, that scientists carrying out legitimate research about how to counteract climate change through a process called geo-engineering are secretly poisoning us, or even that secret powerful groups are spraying us with chemicals to make us pliant and easy to control.

The trails she’s talking about are those you’ll have seen yourself – plumes of white that form behind aircraft. They are simply water vapour released from aircraft engines that condenses into ice crystals if the atmospheric conditions are right. Suzanne Maher isn’t correct when she says they’re a new phenomenon: you can see condensation trails left behind aircraft in images from the Battle of Britain during the Second World War.

But what most people call “contrails” Suzanne and other conspiracy theorists call “chemtrails” – and in them they see evidence of a clandestine globalist conspiracy involving a pick-and-mix selection of the UN, the military, national governments, the Rothschilds, climate scientists, pilots and big business.

Some people claim trails left by aircraft in the sky are evidence of a government conspiracy

Her beliefs don’t exactly come from nowhere.

Weather modification – or at least attempting it – has a long history. The Leningrad Institute of Rainmaking was established in the Soviet Union in 1932. Chinese authorities used cloud seeding to ensure the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics wasn’t washed out.

Geo-engineering – deliberate intervention in the Earth’s natural systems to counteract climate change – is a newer field of research. While scientists have talked about it, there’s been very little being physically done – most of the research in the field relies on computer modelling.

Professor David Keith of Harvard University, is among the most prominent scientists calling for further research. He told the New York Times he knows of only two instances where one of the most controversial proposals has been tested in the field. It’s called solar geo-engineering and involves atmospheric aerosol injection of tiny reflective particles to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the earth and thus cool the planet.

Similarly, successful weather modification efforts have been localised – and certainly not on the grand scale some conspiracy theorists claim.

Nonetheless, “chemtrail” and geo-engineering conspiracy theorists flood social media with speculation, questions and images of contrail cross-hatched skies. One international survey suggested almost 17% of respondents thought chemtrail conspiracy theories true or partly true.

Suzanne says she first became aware of the subject six years ago.

“I was actually on a website. It was a very young girl, she wasn’t even ten years old. She talked about the spraying going on in our skies and the fact she was so sad because she didn’t want to go outside and the skies were no longer blue and we were being sprayed. Why would such a young child be sharing this information if it wasn’t truthful?

“Her words disturbed me and intrigued me so I began looking into this topic and doing extensive research. This awakening truly changed my life,” she says.

Suzanne Maher in front of a Bye Bye Blue Sky billboard in Toronto

That research led Suzanne to create Bye Bye Blue Sky. She runs a closed group on Facebook, where around 5,000 fellow believers can discuss the theory, as well as raising money to buy billboard advertising. She closely vets the group’s members.

“We don’t debate that it’s happening in this group,” she says. “We all realise that it is happening.”

‘Information bubbles’

Closed groups of like-minded people – the type common on social media and the internet – are one of the big reasons why conspiracy theories solidify online. Professor Karen Douglas, from the University of Kent, researches the psychology of conspiracy theories.

“People tend to share information but also consume information that’s consistent with what they already believe,” she says.

“People end up living in these information bubbles, or echo chambers, where they share ideas with other people who believe what they believe. And they read information which confirms what they believe.

“Information doesn’t necessarily spread indiscriminately the way people think it does on the internet and social media. People tend to share it with people who kind of think the same way as they do about these issues in the first place,” she says.

‘I taste and smell it’

Russ Tanner runs what he claims is the largest “chemtrails” group on Facebook – Chemtrails Global Skywatch – which has more than 114,000 members. He calls so-called chemtrails “the largest crime against humanity in history”.

In a post typical of the paranoia among conspiracy theorists, one of the memes he’s posted in his group asks if chemtrails are “the modern implementation of eugenics and forced depopulation”.

At his request, I contact Russ at 8am in the UK – 3am in Maine, where he lives.

“The main reason I wanted to do the interview at night is in our area we have an enormous amount of aerosol injection that takes place through the evening,” he tells me.

“I can’t sleep when the air is that concentrated with this fallout. It causes me physical symptoms. I taste and smell it. It burns my sinuses, causes inflammation, rises in blood pressure, stomach issues and headaches.”

The people who think 9/11 may have been an ‘inside job’

Both Russ and Suzanne claim to have conducted their own scientific tests. Suzanne says she even tested her dog.

“I had my soil tested. I had my hair tested,” she says. “I was toxic in aluminium, barium, strontium, arsenic, manganese. And I live very healthily.” She says her dog has been poisoned by a radioactive metal.

Russ claims he found six times the safe levels of aluminium in his rainwater, and both say the tests are solid proof of atmospheric spraying.

It’s not known what’s behind those test results – and they couldn’t be independently verified. Scientists, of course, disagree that there is any large-scale plot by governments to spread chemicals around the globe.

A 2016 study by the Carnegie Institute for Science and the University of California Irvine surveyed 77 leading atmospheric scientists and geochemists. All but one, 98.7%, reported no evidence of a secret large-scale atmospheric spraying programme. The one scientist who dissented recorded unusually high levels of atmospheric barium in a remote area with low levels of barium in the soil. But to get from that one result to the idea that we’re being secretly sprayed with chemicals requires a monumental leap of faith.

“Our goal is not to sway those already convinced that there is a secret, large-scale spraying programme – who often reject counter evidence as further proof of their theories – but rather to establish a source of objective science that can inform public discourse,” the study’s authors wrote.

The conspiracy theorists won’t be swayed.

“We have a long history in all countries of scientists believing things that we later realise are false,” Russ contends. “It takes a very rare and brave person who steps out and goes against the flow.

“Whether or not people listen, that’s up to them. But as for me – this is happening.”

Blog by Chris Bell

The news of Russia’s birth rate dropping by 10.6 per cent in 2017 to reach its lowest level in 10 years, despite government measures to boost fertility rate has prompted debate online.

Social media users in Russia have been sharing the statistic and debating on Russia’s online platforms, with many blaming President Vladimir Putin’s policies.

The majority of online commentators do not seem to have been taken by surprise with the news. Many pointed out that the authorities had previously claimed that “the birth-rate in Russia is rising faster than in Europe”.

Other online users said the fallen birth rate was only a natural consequence of the country’s current political course.

Exiled tycoon and founder of the Open Russia movement founder of the Open Russia movement Mikhail Khodorkovsky retweeted the news saying: “I think the reasons are many, but the lack of hope for the future is not the least important.”

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Former Deputy Premier Alfred Koh lambasts Russian authorities in previous years, for attempting to attribute a birth rate rise to Mr Putin’s measures, saying it was due to “a generation of people born during a baby boom under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that has reached child-bearing age”.

Mr Koh argues that the Kremlin should take responsibility for the current situation. In his Facebook post that has had over 700 likes and 100 shares, his reasons for the decreasing birth rate are: “When people’s income is falling for a fourth year in a row, when we have incessantly been fighting since 2014, that we have broken off from the entire civilised world and that the poverty in Russia is shooting up”

“By conducting a criminal social policy – cutting down on the number of schools and hospitals, not creating new jobs, driving young families into mortgage servitude for many years, depriving us of simple confidence in tomorrow – do the authorities really want to increase the birth rate in Russia?” one user on Twitter commented.

A popular blogger El Murid said on LiveJournal: “The Kremlin has got nothing to do with the previous spike in the birth rate. It has not left any reserves; people simply lack motivation to have children because you cannot give them anything besides poverty and the feeling of hopelessness. The current regime undoubtedly deserves credit for that.”

“This is a trend that has long been predicted,” said one commentator on a TJournal article.


Some posted sardonic comments regarding the current regime in Russia. A meme that gained over 17,000 likes on VKontakte’s (VK) community group page MDK read: Yeah right. It’s the best time to have kids now because the country is flourishing.”

One VK user posted: “The birth rate will soon disappear completely by 2024, at the end of yet another Putin term in office.”

Since 2007, the Russian authorities have introduced a series of incentives aimed at boosting birth rates in the country.



Ref:  BBC News

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